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Group Pipes Up over oil expansion as Kinder Morgan hosts info session in Abbotsford
The Fraser Valley's organized opposition to Kinder Morgan's planned pipeline expansion, Pipe Up, was front and centre at Saturday's information session at the Sandman Hotel in Abbotsford.
Members of the group unfurled a banner to greet those attending, and inside they set up a table offering their own information, such as one page headlined "Did you know there is a tar sands pipeline in your backyard?"
Kinder Morgan has owned the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which runs between Edmonton and Burnaby, since 2005. It plans to twin the line, and raise capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 750,000 barrels.
Lynne Perrin is a Pipe Up member who was also a prominent member in the Water Watch group that lobbied against the City of Abbotsford's controversial P3 Stave Lake water project. She and project director Greg Toth wrangled over the response time to a 2005 spill that put 210,000 litres of oil into Abbotsford's Kilgaard Creek.
Michael Hale, a Yarrow resident and Pipe Up spokesperson, said the group wanted to counter what it perceives as "one-way communication" in the pipeline company's application process.
He said the company needs to be more forthright about the risks associated with moving heavier tar sands oil. The diluted bitumen or "dilbit," is oil mixed with solvents to enable it to flow through the pipeline. In a spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010, dilbit the consistency of peanut butter sunk to the bottom of the river floor, and two years later the cleanup is still not complete. Pipe Up maintains that dilbit is a greater threat to the environment than conventional oil.
Hale noted the Trans Mountain Pipeline passes near 98 streams and rivers as it makes its way to the coast.
In Abbotsford, it runs close to Auguston Traditional elementary. Students there were sent home after some felt sick from the smells from a spill at the Sumas Mountain tank farm earlier this year. That spill was contained to the site.
Hale said the 60-year-old line also runs relatively close to Sandy Hill elementary and the Abbotsford Christian school campus, but he is not sure parents who send their children to those schools are aware of that.
"Our mission is to be informed – inform ourselves and our communities as much as we can," said Hale.
Kinder Morgan was ready for a large public turnout. Information boards were set up along the walls of the conference room, and numerous company representatives in green jackets moved about the room answering questions. At one count, there were two city councillors, 12 members of the public and 17 Kinder Morgan staffers in the room.
Toth, the project director, said public consultation is part of the application process, along with an environmental assessment and other requirements directed by the National Energy Board (NEB).
The public meetings started in Alberta, and the company hosted 10 events. The first in B.C. was in Kamloops.
"We had as many people at the meeting in Kamloops as we did at all the meetings in Alberta combined," he said.
He noted the Enbridge Northern Gateway project to build a pipeline from Edmonton to Kitimat has raised the profile of pipeline issues, and prompted demonstrations at the provincial legislature in Victoria. Oil spills like the one in Kalamazoo make pipelines controversial.
"We get tarred with the same brush," said Toth.
"We do have a long operating history in B.C., and we have a very good safety record that stands on its own."
In Abbotsford there is 29.7 km of pipeline, a pump station on Sumas Prairie and a tank farm on Sumas Mountain. With the upgrade, a seventh tank would be needed at the tank farm, and a second pump station would be constructed at the Sumas site – a $30-million facility.
Toth said the common refrain that "B.C. takes all the risk and Alberta gets the benefit" is not true.
Of the $4.3 billion cost of the project, $2.6 billion will be spent in B.C., and the rest in Alberta. Over the life of the project (2012 to 2048), for construction and operation, it will create 27,000 person-years of employment in B.C. and 11,500 in Alberta. Most of the jobs are in construction. Once built, the project would create 65 new operational jobs, and 35 of those would be in B.C.
Kinder Morgan pays approximately $2 million in taxes to the city of Abbotsford each year for these utilities, and that would rise to about $3.18 million with the expansion. Across B.C., the pipeline company would pay $20 million annually in property taxes. Over the life of the project the federal government would earn an estimated $811 million in tax revenue, and the provincial government $320 million.
Toth said the tars sands oil will find its way to the market one way or another. He points to a boom in production at the Bakken Oil Field in Saskatchewan/North Dakota has led to massive rail shipments, and that oil field has a capacity for almost 700,000 barrels per day.
A pipeline operator, Toth maintains it is the safest and most efficient way to transport oil. But even if it can't be moved via the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the Alberta tar sands oil will find a means of getting to market, he said.
The information sessions move to Coquitlam tonight (Tuesday), Surrey on Wednesday and Langley on Thursday, with more in the Lower Mainland this month. For times and locations see www.transmountain.com.
A second Abbotsford session will be held Nov. 29 at Straiton Community Hall (4698 Upper Sumas Mountain Road) from 5-8 p.m.